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The wonderful world of legal murder

Posted By Barbara Simpson On 02/21/2005 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

As you read this, Terri Schiavo might be processing. That’s the au courant word to use these days. It means dying.

Processing means that medical attempts to keep the person alive will not happen. It means someone, somehow, somewhere decided the patient’s time has come and they will not stand in the way of death, even if that life could be saved.

Terri Schiavo is alive, brain damaged from a mysterious injury 15 years ago in her apartment with her husband present. She cannot swallow. Her husband, Michael, has refused her therapy that might wean her from the feeding tube.

Therapy that might mean Terri could talk again. Perhaps she could tell what happened that night she mysteriously fell ill. Perhaps she could explain the full body x-rays that show a variety of broken and healed bones in her body from injuries no one knows about.

Perhaps that might explain why legal moves kept the x-rays hidden for years. Perhaps it might also explain why the one judge, George Greer, who has consistently ruled against Terri all these years, refused to allow the x-rays introduced as evidence in any of the many hearings on the case.

Perhaps. I’m just asking.

But time is short. Terri may begin “processing” tomorrow, unless there’s a legal miracle – or any other kind – to stop what her father calls “judicial murder.”

Who gets “processed”? Maybe the person is old, not necessarily sick, just old – too old. Perhaps young, too young to be worth spending time, effort and expense to bring to health. Perhaps sick, requiring “too much” money or time or bed space to heal. Perhaps handicapped, so the person can’t live a “normal” life – whatever that means.

Michael Schiavo wants Terri’s feeding tube removed. That will kill her. She will die a prolonged, painful death from starvation and dehydration. He says she’d want that, but he has no written proof. He just says it, and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the legal system to get his wife dead.

Terri’s family is Roman Catholic. Her parents say she wouldn’t allow this. They’ve spent every dime they have in a legal battle with their son-in-law to keep their daughter alive and care for her for the rest of her life. (See their story at terrisfight.org.)

Michael Schiavo won’t allow it. He won’t divorce Terri even though he’s had at least two liaisons with other women and has two children by the current one. He wants Terri dead. So does the justice system. It’s the “letter of the law” with no compassion, no humanity and no skeptical look at the circumstances.

The legislative system is against Terri, although the Florida Legislature wrote a law to protect her and Gov. Jeb Bush signed it. That got Terri’s feeding tube reinserted after her being starved for six days. But the state Supreme Court ruled against Terri, claiming the law was illegal. The governor says he can do nothing more.

The media conspire against Terri. Virtually every news report says she is “vegetative” and “brain dead.” The media have so bought into the idea of the “right to die” that they are complicit in the false reporting of Terri’s condition creating the impression she’s on the verge of death

Uh – no.

She wakes and sleeps, responds to people, smiles, reacts to her family – especially her mother – and vocalizes, making sounds in response to statements and questions as though trying to speak.

But Terri can’t, and it appears there’s no one with power who speaks for her, who will help save her life – who will help prevent the law, medicine, the state of Florida, the system, from deliberately starving her to death.

Terri is not sick. Her brain is damaged. She doesn’t look or act “normal.” Apparently that makes her life dispensable. It’s become OK to kill her.

Consider that if you starved your dog or cat to death, you’d be in jail. In San Francisco, a new law regulates how to feed, water and house your pet. Why is a human life worth less?

Don’t like what I said? Tough. Like it or not, these things happen every day, everywhere. The average person simply has no idea of the cold-blooded carnage occurring in our very respectable hospitals, convalescent homes and yes, even hospices.

The patient’s family usually has no idea what’s going on until it’s too late. They’re just told their loved one is “dying” or already dead. The grisly details of what led to the death comprise the elephant under the rug that almost everyone in the business of medicine and law ignores.

Employees – nurses, aides, etc. – know, but because of their status in the hierarchy of medicine, say nothing. To tell the truth puts their job and professional future at risk. No one disagrees with doctor’s orders.

I had a family doctor stop food and water for an aged, but not sick, grandparent without asking or telling any family members. In another case, my father was denied hydration even though he was fully conscious, could speak and eat. He died quickly. We were told he was old and it was his time.

Doctors know what’s going on. They make the decision not to treat, or to stop treatment, knowing full well the patient will die.

They’re playing God. Power is a wonderful thing, especially the power of life and death over helpless people who believe they’re being cared for by people dedicated to their survival.

Certainly not all physicians take steps to end the lives of patients. They don’t, but too many do, and most people, most authorities and most media don’t care.

They don’t want to know, because looking at injured, sick, old or handicapped people makes them queasy.

Better it should stay hidden. Better it should go away.

How convenient to speed death along. It shortens the dying and frees up a hospital bed for a more profitable patient.

Crass, but true.

If you don’t do something to stop the killing of Terri Schiavo, it will haunt you. If every one of us doesn’t call, fax, e-mail, picket and generally rattle every cage there is, to draw attention to her situation, we will all be complicit in her fate.

If the legal system kills Terri Schiavo, none of us is safe. The system is big and powerful and, if it wants you dead, you will be.

Read it and weep.


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